World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0001916187
Reproduction Date:

Title: Iotacism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Koine Greek, Eta, Greek language, Codex Sinaiticus, Polyclitus
Collection: Greek Language, Koine Greek, Phonology, Vowel Shifts
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Iotacism (Greek: ἰωτακισμός, iotakismos) is the process by which a number of vowels and diphthongs in Ancient Greek converged in pronunciation so that they all sound like iota () in Modern Greek. In the case of the letter eta specifically, this process is known as itacism (from the resulting pronunciation of the letter's name as ).


  • Vowels and diphthongs involved 1
  • Issues in textual criticism 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Vowels and diphthongs involved

Ancient Greek had a broader range of vowels (see Ancient Greek phonology) than Modern Greek. Eta (η) was a long open-mid front unrounded vowel /ɛː/, and upsilon (υ) was a close front rounded vowel /y/. Over the course of time, both of these vowels came to be pronounced like the close front unrounded vowel iota (ι) [i]. In addition, certain diphthongs merged to the same pronunciation, especially epsilon-iota (ει) and (later) upsilon-iota (υι).

In Modern Greek the letters and digraphs "ι, η, υ, ει, οι, ηι, υι" are all pronounced "i", .

Issues in textual criticism

Due to iotacism, some words with originally distinct pronunciations are now pronounced similarly, and this is sometimes the cause of differences between manuscript readings in the New Testament. For example, the upsilon of ὑμεῖς, ὑμῶν hymeis, hymōn "you, your" (2nd person pl. in respectively NOM, GEN) and the eta of ἡμεῖς, ἡμῶν hēmeis, hēmōn "we, our" (1st person pl. in respectively NOM, GEN) could be easily confused if a lector were reading to copyists in a scriptorium. As an example of a relatively minor (almost insignificant) source of "variant readings", some ancient manuscripts spelled words the way they sounded, such as the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, which sometimes substitutes a plain iota for the epsilon-iota digraph and sometimes does the reverse.[1]

English-speaking textual critics use the word "itacism" to refer to this phenomenon, and loosely for all inconsistencies of spelling involving vowels.[2] The word itacism comes from ita, the pronunciation of the name of the letter η (eta) with iotacism.

See also


  1. ^ Jongkind, Dirk (2007). Scribal Habits of Codex Sinaiticus, Gorgias Press LLC, p. 74 ff, 93-94.
  2. ^ Greenlee, J. Harold (1964). Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, Eerdmans, p. 64.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.